Dapper Dan Awards: Top honors for Malkin, Penn State volleyball
When Evgeni Malkin's parents got rock star treatment during the Stanley Cup run, the bond between the Russian-born star and Pittsburgh entered the realm of extraordinary.
"The fans and the people of Pittsburgh have been like family to me," he said. "It's my second home."
To that end, after winning the NHL scoring title, earning playoff MVP honors and parading the Stanley Cup along city streets, Malkin has added a new award to his trophy case. He is the Dapper Dan sportsman of the year for 2009.
And for the first time, the Dapper Dan sportswoman award belongs to a team rather than an individual. The Penn State women's volleyball team, having won three consecutive national championships to cement its status as a dynasty, has made history again.
The winners, along with lifetime achievement award honoree Bruno Sammartino, will appear Thursday, March 25, at the 2010 Dapper Dan Dinner & Sports Auction presented by BNY Mellon. In addition, winners will be announced for best play, best sports moment and breakthrough athlete. The event will be held at the Petersen Events Center.
Malkin, 23, hails from the steel town of Magnitogorsk, which means Iron City, where the local hockey team is called Metallurg, which means Steelers. He may not recognize the names of past Dapper Dan winners such as Billy Conn, Bullet Bill Dudley or Ralph Kiner, but he joins a growing list of Penguins to win the city's oldest and most prestigious sports award.
Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, coach Bob Johnson and Sidney Crosby are all part of Dapper Dan lore.
"It's a tremendous honor," Malkin said. "I want to thank the fans and all the people who voted. It's like a dream."
Ballots were cast through the mail and on-line, with final decisions made by the Dapper Dan's six-person executive committee.
Now in his fourth season, Malkin has come a long, long way in a short time.
"For a young man who had to learn a new language and a new culture, it's been a tough transition in a lot of ways," said Penguins coach Dan Bylsma. "But you're finding a guy who's comfortable being with a young team in this city. He's a fun-loving kid with a great personality. There's something real personal about how Pittsburgh embraced him and his family."
And of course, success goes hand in glove with hometown awards.
"There are other great players in the league that are young. Others seem to be as dynamic. But with both Sid and Geno, there's more to it than just scoring and more to it than being good players," Bylsma said. "There's been winning and there's been a championship at a young age. That coincides with the relationship they have with the fans."
Malkin's parents, Natalia and Vladimir, may be on hand for the banquet. They're coming from Russia to see him in the Olympics and will stay for the remainder of the NHL season. The 17th Street Café on the South Side, still offers a dish called Mama Malkin's Borscht. The restaurant sold 350 gallons of it during the Stanley Cup finals. Now that's some home cooking.
At Penn State, meanwhile, the women's volleyball team last lost on Sept. 15, 2007, to Stanford. Since then, there have been 102 consecutive victories and three national titles.
"It's a great honor," coach Russ Rose said of the Dapper Dan award. "I'm proud to accept it on their behalf, but it's all about the players. It's a great collection of kids who worked really hard."
Although nobody on the current roster is from western Pennsylvania, Rose said Penn State ascended to national prominence with Pittsburgh area talent.
"In the early years, half of our team was from western Pennsylvania. All of them shaped the program and the culture of success," he said.
He specifically mentioned Christa Harmotto of Hopewell High School, a three-time All-American who was a big factor on some national championship teams. She was previously nominated for Dapper Dan sportswoman of the year.
"Not very many people are as deserving of recognition for the type of person she is," Rose said. "She was all about the concept of team. She was the heartbeat of our team."
First Published January 31, 2010 12:00 am